PORT GAMBLE, Wash. -- Nearly 160 years after it was first established, historic Port Gamble -- the only company-owned town remaining in Puget Sound -- is on the verge of a major makeover. And the community got its first look at the owner's plans Wednesday night.
"It's going to be more of what people love," said Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, a subsidiary Pope Resources, which currently owns the tiny town.
Perched on the shore, Port Gamble is lined with white-picket fences and other touches of New England charm. But with the mill that once employed the town long gone, company ownership no longer makes sense, which is why Pope Resources is looking to redevelop the town and sell off the homes and businesses.
Current plans call for building and selling a waterfront hotel, new shops, offices and about 260 cottage-style homes, all while maintaining the town's historic feel.
"We're not going to compromise any of that charm," Rose said.
A few hundred people packed Kingston Middle School Wednesday to take a look at the plans and listen to a presentation by Rose.
"My understanding is they're going to build it back to the same size [it once was], and I'm fine with that," said Nancy Rauch, who lives just a few hundred feet from Port Gamble's border.
Mostly positive reviews were mixed with concerns about what might happen to trails on land that will someday be sold.
"The access to this open space permanently is our top priority because without the access to open space, you don't have access to trails,," said Linda Berry-Maraist of the North Kitsap Trails Association.
Cleanup is also still needed at the former mill site, land that some feel should be conserved or turned into a park.
The current owners are still open to ideas. They hope to finalize their plans and present them to Kitsap County by year's end. Construction is expected to take about ten years.
"And Port Gamble will finally be able to leave the nest and live on its own," Rose said.